Friday, February 28, 2014

Plan for Success

This blog post is two days late.

Why? Because this week was a successful one for me personally. I was busy following up on client leads, meeting with new appointments, making plans for new ventures, and more.

These kinds of weeks are awesome adrenaline boosters. But in this case it also got in the way of the other things I had planned in my full week. Like this blog post.

You see, I had planned things on my to-do list. 

But I hadn't made room for great success. There was literally no give if some of the weeks of marketing I had been doing paid off. I had laid the groundwork - but not created a space for the desired result. 

It was a wake-up call for me. And I apologize that it came at the expense of your blog post being late this week.

But like all my goofs, I share so you can take away the same lesson I did! Plan for success. Cause sooner or later. It will happen.

Are you ready?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who are you? Q & A

Marketing yourself. We've been discussing how it build confidence, why you want to do it, and how to put it into practice. But some questions can't be addressed on a general basis. That's why I asked you to share with me your biggest questions on marketing as a newbie counselor. 

Q: Do you have any suggestions on how to present or market oneself as an intern counselor to a potential supervisor? Specifically, in a cover letter/resume format and in the case of someone waiting on their license to come through. 

  • My first suggestion with any kind of marketing is "don't start with you." The cover letter or resume that states your objective, in my opinion, misses the mark. Even the kindest person sifting through a bunch of resumes doesn't care about your needs at that exact moment - they are looking to fill their sometimes desperate need. Start instead with a question or a statement about their needs and then tie your skills and desires into it. 
  • If you have something that is lacking, approach it a different way. In this person's scenario, you might say: "Although I won't take my NCE until _____, I am actively seeking a supervisor and further client experience starting immediately." There are some legal restrictions you will have to overcome to work with clients after graduation, but before an official start to your internship. If these exist in your state, you might propose a compromise that is legal, for some people, volunteering hours and/or getting temporary liability insurance that covers you under another umbrella.
  • Follow up. Most people don't. Snail mail is very inconvenient to respond to. The person receiving the message may mean to respond, but put it in their "to-do" pile indefinitely. You can follow up with a simple phrase like, "I wanted to see if you received my cover letter and resume." [If yes] "Do you think that my skills might be a good match for your needs?"
  • Research them. If you can say why you like their organization, it will go a lot farther for you. Make sure your counseling theories match, and that the job isn't "too good to be true." Sadly, an internship that promises major $$$ may be a scam because that kind of money just isn't there at the intern level. 

Q: Why don't you take Medicaid...(or another specific insurance panel they want covered)? 

My answer to this question when I first started was stupid. "Because I have to be licensed such-and-such amount of time to get on this panel...because there are too many people on-panel in this area..." I would end up redirecting the clients to other providers rather than offering them a solution that would work for them.

When a client says, "Why don't you take..." they aren't really asking why. They're communicating that they have some level of interest in your services and are frustrated that you don't offer their insurance panel. But they're still talking to you, which means they're not convinced they want to go with someone else. So here's what you can do instead. 

Affirm that you support whatever they choose to do next, but you have options for people who have insurance you don't take. That might be sliding scale, out-of-network benefits, group therapy, coming less often, etc. Ask them to try it out and see if they like it. If it doesn't suit them, they don't have to keep coming, but it might be the right fit for them. Remind them that there are privacy compromises and limitations on service with insurance providers, and as an out-of-network provider they have more choices with you. 

If they don't want to go off-panel, they won't. They'll call around till they find another provider. But if they want to talk to you enough to ask you "why?"...then they're still invested in the option of working with you. Trust in the VALUE you have to offer and give them another option to consider. 

Q: How do you make sure people are getting what you're sharing with them...and not just nodding their heads?

Ah...I see.

But do they really? Sometimes it's hard to know if you're really getting through to people. But anyone can learn to read the signals of comprehension in order to better communicate their message.

With a referral source, client or coworker, you know you're likely communicating effectively when you see a few positive body language signals, like the ones below:

  • Repeating back to you a version of what you've been saying.
  • Focused gaze on you or off to the side, as if they're thinking. 
  • Taking notes.
  • Getting closer or leaning into your space. 
  • Mirroring movements. 
  • Feet crossed at the ankles while sitting. 
Some signals that might indicate distrust, disinterest, or impatience are:
  • Looking away at other things, shifting eyes.
  • Shifting feet, tapping feet.
  • Crossed arms.
  • Hands on hips.
  • Looking down. (Though in some people this can be thoughtfulness.)
  • Squinting eyes with lowered eyebrows. 

Of course, you want to have more of the former than the latter. So if you are experiencing some negative signals from another person, you might be able to turn it around with one of these tricks:
  • Asking about comprehension. "You know, I'm feeling like I might be being confusing. Am I making sense?"
  • Asking for their opinion. "What do you think about what I've been saying?"
  • Keeping it short. Leaving out extra topics and going over what has already been discussed once again.
  • Trying an analogy or metaphor. "I like to think about it as a ship in a storm..."
  • Trying a visual aid. Prepare one or two that you can keep on you or bring to meetings! 

As you try some of these strategies, watch for the other person to suddenly snap back into the present. That will tell you what to continue speaking about, and what to abandon.

That's enough questions for today, but I'm always here! If you could have any question about counseling answered, what would it be? Did the answers today help you resolve anything you were struggling with?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Who are you? Part three.

If you've been following along in this series so far, you know that many counselors, especially new counselors, struggle with SELF-CONFIDENCE. You've also found out that the secret to developing new counselor confidence is marketing. Not advertising, though that can go with it, but marketing. That's because marketing forces you to:

Identify your specific strengths.

Perfect the art of talking about your strengths.

Regularly share your strengths.

Today, let's talk about what that looks like and how you can make it happen in your life. 

First, identify your specific strengths. Remember in the last post when I shared a list of counseling skills I believed I had? This is your turn to do that. In a Facebook comment, one counselor asked if these were the kinds of characteristics one would put in an "about me" page on your website. Absolutely yes! These are the kinds of things people look for when they come to a counselor. And it leads right into my first suggestion when listing your specific strengths, which is:

  • Think about explaining your talents to someone who hasn't ever heard of a counselor before. This makes you look at your strengths a whole new way, and it helps you to explain your skills in layman's terms.

When listing your skills, it's helpful to plan on taking at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time, and writing freestyle and editing later. If you get stuck, think about:

  • "What am I proud to offer in counseling that maybe other counselors don't have?" Think in terms of personal experiences, counseling skills (confrontation, listening, reflection) and communication styles. 

The second step of this journey is perfecting the art of talking about your strengths. And there is an art to it! The beginning of developing this artistic strength is identifying the skills, which most of us don't do ahead of time. After you do that, you want to practice sharing why they matter:

  • Practice with a loved one or colleague. Pretend they're asking you, "Why would I send a client to you as opposed to this other counselor or no counselor at all?"

Get used to the idea of unashamedly sharing what you have to offer. You're not saying you're good at everything, you're saying what you are good at. Wouldn't you expect your clients to be as proud of their own talents? So lead by example:

  • Watch out for minimizing body posture and words, like saying "sort of," hunching or shrugging your shoulders, or otherwise non-verbally counteracting your words.

Third, regularly share your strengths. Practice makes perfect! Get out there. Here's a phrase I used recently, "I can offer killer talks and articles about preparing emotionally for the transition to college." That was a big step for me! What might be a way you can step out there and share?

  • Offering a "brown-bag" lunch presentation at your local school for parents or teachers.
  • Writing a professional perspective article on a local or current issue. (Why Justin Beiber and every other child star seems to inevitably implode...)
  • Starting a small group at your church, local civic center or community college and enlisting the staff of these places to help spread the word. 

This series, as you can probably tell, has been very personal for me, and it's something near and dear to my heart. So I wanted to do something very unique to close it out. I want to hear from YOU, what questions do you have about marketing your way to self-confidence after reading this series? Post on the blog comments, or email me if you want your name kept private (stephanie AT I will answer as many questions as I can in the next blog post. 

Once again, the question is, "What other questions do you have about marketing yourself to new counselor confidence?" In other words: "Where do you get stuck on this issue?"

Cannot WAIT to hear from you. Comment below or email me! 

Names and identities of counselors responding will be obscured unless otherwise requested. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Who Are You? Part Two.

In the last post, I promised to tell you the secret that helps you move from self-doubt to self-confidence as a new counselor. Well, here it is, no drumroll needed.

That secret is marketing.

Marketing? I'm seriously telling you to take out a directory listing or a Facebook ad as the solution to self-confidence?

No, if I told you to do that I would be telling you to advertise. I'm telling you to market yourself, which is a completely different beast from advertising yourself.


Well, let's look at the word marketing.

When we talk about marketing, we're not talking about selling. We're talking about making people aware of your services and their availability.

But before you can do that, you have to know - confidently - what your offerings are.

Remember when the self-esteem fad was saying affirmations in the mirror?  Now, no denigration to the idea in general, it seemed to help some people and there is research that validates the power of positive speaking, posture and thinking. But for me and the clients I seem to attract, we don't tend to respond to that.

If I simply say, "I am a great counselor" in the mirror, it will be said with a smirk and a hint of sarcasm.

Like many people, I require "proof" before I give myself that kind of credit.

This could easily sound like I'm advocating perfectionism or worth through works, so let me clarify my statement. I don't believe in giving yourself "proof" through what you do, but instead providing proof of your worth and value because of who you are.

I believe these qualities make me a good counselor:
·      I listen well.
·      I am empathetic.
·      I am good at helping people shift perspective.
·      I have a fluid grasp of language as a tool.
·      I can confront in a way that people don't feel harassed.

Several years ago I could NOT have written these qualities in a public forum. I would have felt that it was bragging and that people would think I was stuck on myself. I wouldn't have allowed myself to believe some of these things, because my belief about being a counselor was that a person had to take on a mantle of subservience. In order to effectively serve one had to lower yourself.

My definition of counseling as a profession in some ways reflecting my unhealthy view of myself - that my needs were never as valuable as someone else's.

This is getting really, uncomfortably personal for me now, but the one thing that changed that perspective professionally was learning how to market myself, so I feel it's necessary background information.

Why is marketing the key? Why am I advocating it so strongly for you today?

It's simple.

Marketing forces you to do three things necessary to develop authentic self-confidence:

Identify your specific strengths.

Perfect the art of talking about your strengths.

Regularly share your strengths.

These three things create and perpetuate counselor self-confidence.

However, knowing WHAT to do is not the same as knowing HOW to do it. Tune in next week to find out how to market yourself to new counselor confidence!